When I was living in Hong Kong, my favorite Lunar New Year pastime was going to the flower markets. They were markets held primarily in parks during the weeks leading up to Lunar New Year with vendors selling flowers, gifts, food, and more. Both Monterey Park and San Gabriel offered a taste of these flower markets with their own outdoor Lunar New Year festivities.
Because the San Gabriel Lunar New Year Festival was on February 6 and the Lunar New Year Festival in Monterey Park was on January 30 this year, I was able to attend both. Both offered tender meat skewers from $4 to $6 and $6 Hong Kong egg puffs. (I developed an unhealthy obsession with the spam and cheese egg puffs.) The Monterey Park festival offered more Chinese snacks such as tanghulu (frozen candied haw berries on a skewer covered in hard sugar), stinky tofu, and dragon’s beard candies (peanut bars covered in thin strains of white sugar resembling a dragon’s beard). In contrast, the San Gabriel Lunar New Year Festival favored more Western food like burgers or fusion snacks like kimchi poutine fries, $5 cheese and pork rice noodle rolls, and fried bao breadsticks served with two scoops of taro ice cream on top. In the end, my stomach and I were happy from the food in both festivals.
The size of the San Gabriel Lunar New Year Festival and the Lunar New Year Festival in Monterey Park varied. While you could purchase clothes, pinwheels, and wall decorations in both places to bring in good fortune for the new year, the Lunar New Year Festival in Monterey Park was significantly larger with vendors spanning several blocks. In addition, the one in Monterey Park had lion dances, rock climbing, and trampoline jumping for children. Even though the San Gabriel Lunar New Year Festival was only around three blocks long, there were enough events happening to keep me entertained from morning to evening such as looking at chalk art centered on this year’s zodiac animal, the monkey, learning about the early Los Angeles settlers at the Ramona Museum of California History, and watching a Chinese-Indian fusion kathak dance focusing on Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess at the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse. The highlight of the San Gabriel Lunar New Year Festival for me was seeing both Run River North and MC Jin perform in front of the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse. Both festivals managed to bring unique experiences to me due to their difference in size.
In Hong Kong, Lunar New Year is a celebration that you enjoy over many days leading up to it so instead of choosing to go to either the San Gabriel Lunar New Year Festival or the Lunar New Year Festival in Monterey Park, why not attend both? You can take the 70 line to attend the one in Monterey Park and the 176, 487, 489 lines to go to the one in San Gabriel. If you missed both festivals, don’t worry since Alhambra will be holding their own Lunar New Year Festival on February 13, and Chinatown will be hosting their famous Golden Dragon Parade also on February 13. As always, you can check out our photos on our Facebook page. You can find the latest happenings on our Twitter page @SurvivingLA.
Happy Lunar New Year everyone!